Property owners and neighbors of commercial lots are getting a postcard from the city this month featuring two words of caution: “Don’t panic.”
Raleigh city planners on Monday unveiled a new zoning map that implements the new development code approved last year, known officially as the Unified Development Ordinance. The map includes new zoning designations to match the code – and it represents the most sweeping rezoning effort in decades, affecting 35,000 properties citywide.
Zoning changes in Raleigh can often be contentious – just look at the proposed North Raleigh Publix or the seven-story student apartments on Hillsborough Street. But planners are urging residents not to freak out because the new zoning likely won’t mean major changes in what development is allowed.
“We’re doing it in a very conservative manner, finding the most suitable district for what’s on the ground now,” city planner Dan Becker said.
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The city is also allowing plenty of time to make tweaks based on feedback. Property owners and their neighbors can comment on the plan anytime between now and Sept. 30. A revised zoning map goes to the city’s planning commission in October before the city council votes on approval.
The postcards will be sent out in waves over the next two weeks. They direct recipients online to learn more about the proposed zoning. At RaleighUDO.us, an interactive map allows one to type in a street address and compare what’s allowed under current zoning to the proposed new designation. City planners will respond to comments typed directly on the map.
Information is available
Not Internet savvy? The planning department has set up a temporary call center staffed by employees who field questions and comments between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for the next six weeks. The number is 919-996-6363.
But while city planners stress than the zoning changes are minor, a vocal group of neighborhood leaders wants to put the remapping process on hold. Grow Raleigh Great – mostly composed of neighborhood groups currently fighting a development proposal – has asked the city council to first fix what they see as “unintended consequences” from the new development code.
They say flaws in the code have opened the door to development they see as inappropriate for their neighborhoods. And they want changes made before rezoning takes place; city council members declined the request because they said any tweaks could be made before the new zoning comes before council this fall.
The new zoning map released Monday isn’t a game changer for the proposed developments that worry Grow Raleigh Great. On Hillsborough Street, the new zoning would cap building heights at four stories in most areas – well below the seven-story proposal drawing fire. The North Raleigh Publix site also wouldn’t see a noticeable zoning change.
Ken Bowers, the city’s interim planning director, said the controversial rezoning proposals have little to do with the new development code.
“There is nothing in these cases that could not have been requested under the prior code, and any property owner has the right to petition the city council for whatever zoning they would like, whether or not it meets all the city’s policies,” Bowers said in an email to Grow Raleigh Great.
The final call on major rezoning requests, he said, will remain with the city council.